Tips to Turn Leftovers and Scraps into Something New From Apple Peel to Zucchini Tops
When it comes to food, as a society, we waste a lot. Did you know cauliflower leaves and broccoli stalks are edible?
There are so many parts of fresh produce we throw away that we have paid for because we simply didn’t know the leaves and ‘scraps’ were edible.
This post will cover a range of things commonly thrown away that you can use and how to use them, in alphabetical order.
If there is anything you regularly throw away, leave it in the comments and I will find solutions for you and add it to the article! So let me know.
A Few General Tips
Always wash all your produce thoroughly. Often the skin and outer leaves of produce is tossed but if it was cleaned, it would be useable.
Most peel and leaves contain a lot of nutrients.
By using all of the fruits and vegetables instead of the part we are used to we save money and it is better for our health.
Do not just cut off mould as there is usually more damage than you can see and this is not good for your health.
If something feels or smells off, don’t mess around with it.
Instead, get rid of it and aim to have a system in place to prevent this next time.
Learn the best way to store fruits and vegetables so they don’t go off. For example, berries are best washed right before use.
Celery can be wrapped in foil to last longer. Lettuce should not be cut with a metal knife etc.
Any vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, zucchini, cabbage etc that are going soft can easily be used in bolognese and similar dishes where the softnesss won’t matter.
Grate, dice or food process them so they aren’t as noticeable.
Roast or boil them then puree them to add to a white sauce for a pasta bake or use them in a soup.
Also, they can be grated to make fritters with some egg and flour.
Soft Fruit and Vegetables
Sweet fruit and vegetables that are going soft such as apples, pears, bananas, carrots, zucchini, parsnips, pumpkin etc can be used in muffins, cakes, pancakes and similar.
They can also be dehydrated to make chips.
Fruits going soft can be turned into pies, crumbles, cakes, jams, sauces, dried for tea or cooked and pureed then dehydrate the puree to make fruit leathers.
Apple Peel and Core
Make apple and cinnamon tea by adding a few peels and a cinnamon stick to a mug of hot water, letting it steep for a few minutes then drinking.
Infuse cold water with apple peels and cores to make a refreshing drink.
All you need to do is add them to the water for a while and it will take on a soft apple flavouring.
Roast apple peels with a little butter and cinnamon sugar to make apple chips.
You can do this in an air fryer too.
Chop them up to use in a salad. If they are done finely they work well in coleslaw or any shredded style salad due to their crunch and sweetness.
Use them as a garnish for dishes and drinks. It’s simple and a little bit fun.
Make apple cider vinegar with the peels and cores. The Prairie Homestead has a great recipe for Apple Vinegar.
Freeze them for later to use in muffins, pancakes or even smoothies for extra fibre and flavour.
Apple cordial is another option. It takes a few hours but is easy enough to do.
You can add ginger, cinnamon to other fruits to change the flavour too. There is a recipe for apple cordial here.
Apple pie vodka is easy to make. Use the peel, core and some cinnamon sticks to infuse vodka with the flavours.
Leave it in the fridge for at least 48 hours, strain and return the vodka to a bottle. You can add a little sugar syrup to sweeten it too.
Make Apple jelly/jam with the scraps.
Avocado Seed and Peel
If you’ve made guacamole, store the avocado seed with the guacamole to keep it fresh longer before you toss it. It makes a difference.
Grown a new plant from the seed. Homes To Love shares how to grow an avocado plant from a seed.
The seed is edible but it’s bitter. Some use it pureed into smoothies or they halve and roast the pit then dry it and crush it into a powder to use.
The avocado peel can be added to your bath as it is great for your skin.
Rub it all over your skin or rub the peels on your face to refresh your skin.
Use the peels from an avocado cut in half to plant seedlings. They are the perfect size and shape.
Most of us want to avoid adding fat to things so bacon fat tends to get wasted now when previous generations used it thoughtfully.
It is so full of flavour and can be an extremely cheap way to enhance dishes.
Cook popcorn on the stove with bacon grease instead of oil. Your popcorn will have the most delicious flavour.
Roast vegetables with bacon grease instead of oil.
Spread bacon grease on pizza crust, bread, puff pastry or similar doughs when cooking for a bacon flavour.
It adds a little something extra to anything savoury made from dough.
Use bacon grease instead of butter for grilled cheese. Melt a little in the pan or spread it on the bread and then fry.
Make Baconnaise which is exactly what it sounds like, bacon-flavoured mayonnaise.
Use it for anything savoury you would normally fry such as eggs, burgers, fritters etc.
Bacon-infused bourbon. You read that right! I came across it years ago and everyone was amazed. An instant hit anywhere.
Use this recipe to try bacon-infused bourbon (and you can use whatever bourbon you want).
Banana Peels and Old Bananas
The first thing people think of for old bananas is banana bread or cake.
Most of us will put them in the freezer hoping to do that later but never get around to it.
To make it easier, squish the bananas into zip lock bags so when you defrost them, they are ready for banana bread.
With banana bread, you can actually add the banana peel. Puree it well first so it mixes in.
As long as the peel is washed well or you are using organic bananas, it will be fine and doesn’t change the flavour but does add nutrients.
Old bananas can also be turned into smoothies or paired with other fruits and vegetables to make smoothie packs you keep in the freezer.
They can also be frozen and then blended to make a form of ice cream.
Wipe over indoor plant leaves with banana peels to clean off dust and make them healthier. Or use them to polish your silver.
Make a fertiliser by placing banana peel in a container of water for a few days.
Banana peels can be added to chutney, and curries and even made into vinegar.
Banana peel tea is said to aid sleep and ease bloating due to the potassium, magnesium and tryptophan.
Flour made from banana peel has been tested and is seen as a great substitute to wheat flour for those with allergies, diabetes and other issues.
Banana peel chips are great with guacamole and used in place of tortillas in various recipes.
Rum made from banana peels is apparently quite good. I haven’t tried it but you can find out how to make banana peel rum here.
And before you think that sounds crazy, it’s a real product people buy. Check out Discarded Spirits for it and some recipes.
Prevent meat from drying out by adding banana peel to it while baking.
This works especially well for lean meats such as chicken breast.
Use banana peel as a meat substitute. Many countries where bananas are a main ingredient use the peels in a variety of dishes that mimic meat.
Numerous sweets can be made from banana peels too including candies, syrup and ice cream.
The key to banana peel recipes is to ensure the bananas are ripe.
Green bananas will be more bitter in taste compared to ripe, deep yellow ones.
Beetroot Skin and Leaves
The leaves of beetroot ar often discarded when it is completely usable in salads or used the same as any other green.
Roast them, add them to any dish you’re cooking that uses greens and enjoy.
Beetroot skin can be used to dye fabric a deep purple or to dye eggs for Easter.
Make your own bone broth with any bones.
It is rich in nutrients and great for healing all sorts of issues.
Bones that have been roasted offer a deeper flavour usually.
Freeze your bones from any dishes until you have enough to make a stock or broth.
Bread Crusts and Crumbs
Firstly, please do not use old bread to feed birds.
The nutritional value is so low, it does not contain the protein and fat they need and you can cause more damage than good.
Birds will fill up on the bread but it isn’t good for them.
Secondly, you can revive stale bread. Mist it with a little water, wrap it in foil and place in a low over for 15 to 20 minutes and eat.
Turning stale bread into breadcrumbs isn’t the only use for stale bread, although it is a good one since they can be used in a variety of recipes from meatballs to chicken schnitzel.
Toast the bread to make croutons for salads.
Place a piece in with brown sugar to soften it when it goes hard.
Use it as a quiche base by placing pieces next to each other and cutting to size as necessary to fit the pan.
Pour your quiche mixture over the top and bake.
Stale bread can be crumbled to top a casserole, pasta bake or to use as stuffing in a roast.
Bread and butter pudding is a popular dessert to make from stale bread, it’s easy too.
Drizzle the bread with olive oil, sprinkle on salt, pepper and Italian herbs then bake until golden for a delicious side bread to serve with any meal.
Make a variety of toasted meals such as French toast, grilled cheese, cheese and garlic bread etc. Or toast it and use it as a mini pizza base with tomato paste, cheese and a few toppings.
Create cinnamon scrolls by rolling the crusts into pinwheels or scrolls.
Push a toothpick or kebab stick through, dip in melted butter then cinnamon and sugar or just cinnamon and sugar.
The stalks have the same flavour and can be used in numerous ways.
Chop them up to use as a veggie stick with hummus or another dip.
Include them in stir-fry as you would any other vegetable. Our preference is to cut them into sticks similar to the carrot, capsicum and anything else we are using.
Any recipe you are using broccoli in, include the stalks and leaves. Slice them to a slightly smaller size as they do take a little longer to cook.
Grate the broccoli stalks into coleslaw or other salads.
One of my favourite salads includes grated broccoli stalks, cauliflower, finely shredded kale, sunflower and hemp seeds with roast pumpkin.
Broccoli soup is easy to make and a great way to use stalks.
Freeze all the stalks until you have enough for a broccoli soup if you don’t want to use them in any other recipes.
Grated them into a bolognese or other meat dish that is mince and sauce based e.g. lasagne, pie, minestrone soup etc.
Cut them into cubes and use them in a Thai curry or any other strongly flavoured Asian dish.
Cheese Broccoli Balls are a favourite and can be made gluten and dairy free with some ingredient swaps.
They can also be low carb or keto. Here is my recipe for them.
Cheesy Broccoli Balls
2 Cups cooked broccoli finely diced or processed
1/2 Cup breadcrumbs (or almond flour to make it keto/low carb/gluten-free)
1 Cup grated cheese (we usually use tasty but parmesan has more flavour. I use a dairy-free cheese for my lactose intolerant daughter)
1/4 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
Pinch of salt and pepper
Spice e.g. paprika or cayenne pepper if desired
Mix. Roll onto balls the size of 1 Tablespoon of the mixture. Bake in moderate oven (180°C) for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Vegetable Fritters can be done the same as the broccoli balls but use any grated vegetables and fry instead of rolling into balls and baking.
Brussel Sprouts and Cabbage Leaves
Often the outer leaves of these are stripped and thrown away instead of washed and used.
Try cleaning and drying then roast them with oil, salt and pepper. They make a tasty alternative to chips.
Or use them in a soup, stew or any recipe where they aren’t the main feature.
They can be finely chopped for bolognese and mince dishes too.
Cabbage rolls are delicious too. With the Brussel sprout leaves, you can make mini cabbage rolls too.
Capsicum Middle (Pith and Seeds)
The seeds of capsicum are bitter but won’t hurt you if you eat them so they can be added to dishes.
However, it might be better to use them to grow your own instead.
As for the pith (white part in the middle), this is edible and is generally only removed for looks.
It tastes fine and can be used in any cooking requiring capsicum.
Carrot Skins, Tops and Leaves
We don’t remove the skin when cooking but I know many people do.
The skin tastes the same as the rest of the carrot, so you can leave it on.
Carrot tops and skins can be used with bones and other ingredients to make a stock.
Or add the skins to a soup such as pumpkin where they will get pureed.
Roasting the skins with some oil, salt and pepper can make some great vegetable chips.
Carrot leaves can be added to a salad or any dish using greens.
They taste almost the same as cauliflower. Since discovering these are in fact edible, we’ve eaten them a variety of ways.
Roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper or add spices for something different.
Finely chop for salad, coleslaw, vegetable fritters or to add to any mince dishes.
Chop up for a stir fry or cook them to use in the broccoli balls above.
A commonly thrown away item that is perfectly edible. They can be used the same as any herb.
Celery leaves go great in a salad, mince dish, soup, risotto or stir fry.
Freeze them with carrot tops and other scraps to use in a broth or chop them to use in soup.
If you have a juicer, celery leaves can be added to any juice you’re making.
Those scraps at the bottom of the cereal packet or container often get thrown out. Add them to whatever you are baking for a bit of extra flavour.
Save them and when making biscuits or cookies, roll the ball of dough in the cereal crumbs for some unique cookies.
Cornflakes or similar plain cereal can be used in the place of breadcrumbs or to top pasta bake and similar dishes.
If your cheese dries out, don’t throw it away. Grate it for dishes such as macaroni and cheese, eggs, fritters, and anything where the cheese gets melted.
Chickpea Liquid (Aquafaba)
Did you know the liquid from your can of chickpeas can be used to make meringue and a variety of other dishes where eggs would normally be used?
I haven’t tried them all but have done a few and was surprised. Check out 20 ways to use it from The Vegan Society.
Candied orange peel used to be a common treat and a great way to use the citrus peel.
Dry citrus peel for recipes such as fruit cake or to make potpourri for the home.
Grate it or zest it and use it in recipes that call for it or freeze it that way until you are ready to use it.
Make some delicious infused oils or compound butters to liven up your cooking.
Add it to vinegar to make a cleaning solution that leaves a fresh scent too.
Cleaning a microwave is easy with citrus peel.
Half-fill a microwave-safe bowl with water, add some peel and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes then clean.
Scatter citrus peel around the garden to deter pests. Many pests hate the smell of citrus, especially lemon.
One of my favourite ways to use coffee grounds is for a body scrub.
Coffee body scrubs aren’t cheap to buy but if you are making coffee at home and have the grounds, it’s free.
Another option is to use them for fertiliser in the garden.
Check which plants it is good for though or it will have the opposite effect.
Coffee grounds absorb smells so they can be great to use in your fridge or anywhere you might notice a nasty odour.
Make sure you clean the cause of the smell too though.
Make dye, stain furniture and even freshen up dark hair with coffee grounds.
The most popular use for egg shells is to grind them into powder for the garden either as fertiliser or to deter slugs.
They are also the perfect container for seedling starters if you are into gardening.
We use fresh ginger a lot so there is often skin and scraps in our house.
These ginger offcuts and scraps can be used to feed your ginger bug if you make your own ginger beer or kombucha etc.
Growing up, my mum made ginger beer and we loved it. Hilariously, one night at dinner, there were loud bangs coming from under the house.
It was the ginger beer exploding!
Alternatively, ginger scraps can also be used to make a healing tea which is another common thing we do.
Herb Stems and Roots
Too often the harder stems of herbs and the roots get thrown away.
Herbs grow easily from their roots if you do it soon after buying so they don’t dry out.
Pop them in some water then plant when ready.
As for the stems, depending on the herb, they can often be used the same as the leaves in any recipe calling for herbs.
They’re a great addition to salad, marinades, stuffing etc.
With harder stems e.g. rosemary, you can still use them in marinades and sauces to add flavour. Simply strain before serving.
Grate, shred or finely slice to use the same as the leaves.
They are harder so you will want them smaller but they are just as edible as the rest of the plant.
You can use the stalks in the same way as cauliflower leaves and broccoli stalks above too.
Kiwi Fruit Skin
Some people do eat the skin, although I cannot handle the furry texture.
If you can eat the skin, it contains the same benefits as kiwi fruit and will help with skin by controlling excess oil, increasing moisture and reducing ageing.
Skin will glow if you use kiwi fruit. Either rub the skin on your freshly cleansed face or puree it into a pulp to use as a mask and then wash off.
It helps control oily skin while also nourishing it.
Kiwi fruit skin is excellent for treating sunburn.
Rub it on your skin after sunburn to ease pain and help the skin repair itself.
Do it gently though, as burnt skin is sensitive.
I had no idea people toss the green part of leeks. I use it in whatever recipe calls for leeks otherwise it is a huge waste.
Many people have been taught to peel mushrooms before using them.
You don’t need to. Wash them and use the whole mushroom so there is no waste.
Onion and Garlic Skins
Use for stock or to infuse oil. The skins don’t have as much flavour and you need to ensure they are clean and well strained out for anything you use them in.
If you plan to use them for stock, add them to a bag or container in the freezer until you have enough.
There isn’t much you can reuse pasta water for but you can let it cool and use it in the garden.
Instead of tipping it down the drain, use it to pickle more fruits and vegetables.
Chop up whatever you want to pickle such as cucumbers, carrots or chilis, place them in the jar with the brine and make your own mixes.
Pickle juice is great used in salad dressing or added to mayonnaise to use in potato salad, tuna salad or coleslaw.
Tenderise meat easily with pickle juice. It adds flavour and is incredible at tenderising meat.
Drink it straight or add it to a variety of cocktails. Yes, there really are cocktails using pickle juice.
Pineapple Skin/Rind and Core
We eat the core but not everyone likes to. If you don’t want to eat it consider grating it into a salad for a different flavour.
Turn the core into a drink or syrup. Pineapple cores can be used to make cordial, a dessert syrup or boiled for tea, added to water to infuse it with a pineapple flavour or blend it into a smoothie.
Slice and dehydrate them to make pineapple chips. These make a great snack and you can add herbs or spices for a different flavour.
One of my favourites is Jamaican Jerk Seasoning for a spicy pineapple chip.
Simmer the peels over the stove with some cinnamon to make a delicious tea. Always wash the skins thoroughly before doing this.
This tea can also be cooled and used for a skin toner with great benefits.
Use to tenderize meat by placing the pineapple skin on any meat and leave, covered in the fridge, for up to 24 hours.
Make pineapple vinegar which is a wonderful addition to salad dressings.
When making mashed potato, we include the skins.
Fry or bake potato skins with some oil and spices to make chips. My favourite as a kid was to use season all seasoning or chicken salt.
Grate them or slice them finely to use them in fritters.
Use potato skins instead of breadcrumbs in mince dishes such as meatballs.
Blitz them in a food processor or blender until they are the size of oats and use the same amount as the recipe states for breadcrumbs. Any smaller than oat size and it won’t work.
Potato skins have been used in beauty regimes for years.
Crushed peels are said to reduce wrinkles, dark circles under the eyes and uneven skin.
Create a mask and leave it on for 20 minutes. Alternatively, rub them on your skin daily to see results.
Pulp from Juicing
Rather than throw away the pulp, consider making smoothies instead of juices.
The fibre and content of smoothies using the whole fruit and vegetable is much better than just the juice.
However, if you do want juice only, use the pulp in cakes, breads, muffins and pancakes.
Some pulp can make a great skin mask or it can be used to infuse and flavour water.
Pumpkin Seeds and Skin
Roast pumpkin seeds for a tasty snack. It doesn’t take long and you can change the flavour using different spices.
Pumpkin skin can be eaten e.g. butternut pumpkin is easy to eat when roasted.
When roasting vegetables, we don’t peel our pumpkin, we simply roast and eat it all.
If you have to peel them for specific recipes, roast or fry them to make chips.
As with other greens, radish leaves are edible. Use them in a salad, saute them or add them to a stirfry.
Strawberry Leaves and Tops
When preparing strawberries, we usually wash them and simply remove the top leaves.
If you cut the whole top, don’t throw them away. There are uses for them even if you don’t want to eat them.
The leaves and tops of strawberries can be used to flavour water or used to make tea to aid digestion, settle your stomach and cure diarrhoea or nausea.
Use the tops only (not the leaves) to make a sweet syrup, compote or jam.
With the leaves, you can add them to a salad or turn them into a pesto.
Place them in a tea bag or strainer and run a bath. The tops and leaves help ease itchy skin.
Make a facemask by removing the inside leaves. Different teas have different healing properties and purposes.
You can also make a face scrub by mixing green tea with rice flour.
I do this immediately after making a cup of tea and let it sit on my face while sipping my tea, then I rinse off the scrub.
It leaves my face feeling incredibly soft. A Korean friend shared this tip with me and she had immaculate skin.
Freeze it in ice cube trays before it goes off then defrost it in portions as needed to use for any recipe calling for tomato paste.
The water from boiling vegetables can be used for soup and stock.
It doesn’t always have a lot of flavour but it can contain nutrients so add some stock powder to taste if making a soup with it.
Watermelon Seed and Rind
As a kid, I was told if you swallow a watermelon seed, a watermelon will grow in your stomach.
Obviously, that isn’t true but most of us still avoid eating the seeds.
Roast watermelon seeds with lime and chilli for a snack, mix it up with other nuts and savoury items to make a trail mix too.
Watermelon rind can be pickled to eat with various dishes or turn the pickled rind into a salsa.
If the wine has gone off, you can turn it into vinegar for salad dressing.
It will take months stored in a cool dry place then is wonderful for making salad dressings.
Wine is great for marinating meat as well and can be used in dishes such as risotto but needs to be done before it starts to turn.
If you’ve had a party the night before and have a few cups here and there leftover from it, use that in your cooking.
Make a wine syrup for use over ice cream or make a delicious wine jelly.
Zucchini Tops and Flowers
Instead of cutting off the zucchini top, chop or grate it into whatever you are cooking.
It tastes the same as the rest of the zucchini.
Alternatively, finely dice or grate it into mince dishes or add it to vegetable stock.
With zucchini flowers, there are numerous recipes for them or add them to a salad, saute them or use them as a garnish.
This article has predominantly focused on what would be considered food scraps.
If there is anything you commonly throw away or have leftover and don’t know what to do with, let me know and I’ll add my ideas here for you.
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